Cancer is never over, no matter how badly we want it to be. It’s always there in the background waiting to pounce. When you are diagnosed with cancer and start treatment, you can’t wait for the day it’s all over….only no one tells you it never really is.
I’m sure every cancer survivor has been told at some point to get over it. Told that it’s time to forget about it and move on. I don’t think these people saying this overly mean to be so insensitive, but unless you’ve had cancer, it’s hard to understand. I think they want us to move on, so they can. I recently had a conversation with someone who was telling me about a friends cancer journey, and she used those actual words, “why can’t she get over it”? I was shocked at first, didn’t know how to respond. I guess my facial expression gave away my reaction because she asked if that was too harsh. It was difficult to explain why it was.
I think the hardest part of being a cancer survivor is fear of recurrence. And it’s not something we can just forget about when we have appointments every few months for tests and scans. Scanxiety is real, there is always a chance it will come back. The thought of having to go through cancer treatment again is so frightening. A lot of cancer survivors fear they won’t have the strength to do it again. Depending where the cancer comes back, often it is stage 4. Stage 4 is terminal. Stage 4 is a life sentence. Stage 4 is spending the rest of your days fighting cancer. Sorry, no, we can’t “get over” that fear.
I don’t think many people realize that just because treatment is over, it doesn’t mean that all the side effects and damage just disappear. Lymphedema, neuropathy, axillary web syndrome, muscle damage, joint pain, bone pain, chemo brain and fatigue, can last months, years, or even a lifetime. These effects of treatment can be painful and debilitating. Many survivors have to continue taking drugs for 10 years or the rest of their life. These drugs have extreme risks and side effects. Sorry, it’s really hard to “get over” living with these.
Many cancer survivors feel a sense of loss. Yes, we’ve won the first fight of cancer, but it comes with great consequences. We’ve lost the life we once had. We are trying to learn to live with our new normal. Every time we look in the mirror and see the scars and damage of cancer, it’s a reminder of what we’ve been through. Many have lost our breasts and are fighting to find our femininity. Many people don’t understand the difference between breast augmentation and reconstruction. Reconstruction is a very long painful journey that can last many years with multiple surgeries. So no, we can’t “get over” that either.
Along with all the physical aspects, there comes the emotional aftermath. PTSD, anxiety and depression are very real. Whether caused from the trauma of diagnosis or a side effect of the drugs, we are continually finding our way through these emotions. If someone you know is lucky enough to make it as far as being a survivor, we just need you to listen, support us and let us feel the effects.
Chances are, we won’t be getting over it.